During their soon-to-expire terms, three City Councilors running for reelection broke crucial campaign promises to increase transparency at City Hall  by imposing conflict of interest and financial disclosure requirements on the key boards approving multi-million dollar developments.

“Amid widespread alarm about conflict of interest and the police, the city’s lax conflict and financial transparency rules for other major players has been all but forgotten,” said one observer. “But the City is still way out of compliance with the Amendment C of the City Charter (its Constitution) which requires mandatory financial disclosure by ALL municipal officials appointed or elected. How come?”

With the city awash in development dollars, many residents urged the City Council to increase transparency by beefing up financial disclosure for all elected and appointed city officials as required by the City Charter.

With the city awash in development dollars, a 5-4 City Council majority defeated efforts to extend financial disclosure to key players, as required by the City Charter.

In a 2013 Portsmouth Now preelection survey, candidates Chris Dwyer, Brad Lown and Bob Lister (who won our endorsement and became Mayor), answered “Yes” when asked if they would extend financial disclosure requirements to the land use boards. Former Mayor Eric Spear and City Councilor Stefany Shaheen did not participate in the survey, but their votes have shown where they stand.


In two crucial Dec. 8 (2014) second reading votes on moves to tighten the city’s lax conflict of interest/financial disclosure requirements to comply with the City Charter, City Councilors Eric Spear, Brad Lown, Chris Dwyer, Stefany Shaheen and Mayor Bob Lister formed a 5-4 majority voting AGAINST including the land use boards and the City Manager, (voting instead to add the School Board and Police and Fire Commissions). Voting in the pro-transparency minority were Assistant Mayor Jim Splaine and City Councilors Esther Kennedy, Jack Thorsen and Zelita Morgan.

“The last Charter change in 1987 approved by two-thirds of city voters requires financial disclosure of ALL police, school, municipal officials, appointed or elected, of current personal sources of income and all capital assets– None of this watered down stuff,” the observer noted. “Other cities do it—why aren’t we?”

Now, incumbents Dwyer, Spear and Lown want your vote again.  Asked how voters knew he’d keep his campaign promises in 2013, Lister, who isn’t running again, declared: “I have 38 years of integrity and leadership as an educator and in civic activities. Any friends and colleagues will state that I am a person of my word, I am consistent, do not shy away from making decisions and I do not waffle on issues. Integrity and building trust is very important to me.”

The moral of the story? Voter beware.

Candidates accepting Portsmouth Now's endorsement in 2013 included Bob Lister, who went on to break his campaign promise to extend financial disclosure requirements to the land use boards

Accepting Portsmouth Now’s endorsement in 2013 were Bob Lister, who became Mayor and broke a key campaign promise to extend conflict of interest/financial disclosure requirements to the land use boards


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